Indian boffins' baby mp3 heart monitor could save many lives

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Washington, Aug 29 (ANI): Scientists from Manoharbhai Patel Institute of Engineering and Technology, in Gondia, India have developed a novel fetal heart monitor that could save the lives of unborn infants in complicated pregnancies.

Dr A.K. Mittra and colleagues have come up with a simple device that is based on a two-microphone system that can monitor fetal heart rate during the mother's rest times and sleep and send an alert to the woman and her physician.

Regular ultrasound monitoring of fetal development can spot some problems, but too frequent ultrasound monitoring is associated with its own health risks. Moreover, it cannot continually assess fetal heart rate.

The disturbances in fetal heart rate, particularly regular sudden drops in rate for up to one minute, can occur long before an underlying problem is reflected in the form of other symptoms.

A serious drop in fetal heart rate is most likely to occur at night just before the pregnant woman lies down to sleep because at this time, she is most relaxed and her own heart rate drops, which leads to a lowering of her blood pressure, and in a susceptible fetal a problematic drop in its heart rate.

"Monitoring FHR during a woman's most restful hours at home and providing urgent medical assistance in case of abnormality will prove to be very effective in the prevention of stillbirth and other prenatal complexities," said researchers.

The new device is based on two small acoustic sensors that can easily monitor fetal heart rate and feed the information to a wave analyzer in a bedside personal computer connected to the Internet.

The first microphone is attached to the mother's abdomen to pick up the sound of the fetus' heartbeat, the second is attached at a reasonable distance to pick up ambient and bodily noise.

Computer software can then subtract the "noise" channel from the fetal sound to produce a "wav" file that can be further analyzed for medical anomalies.

Should a problem be detected the wav file might be compressed to the mp3 file format for rapid upload via the internet to the physician's computer or to trigger a gentle warning to seek medical assistance.

The team points out that they have successfully tested their monitoring system on several women at various stages of pregnancy. (ANI)

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